Perks and Detriments of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone is an essential male sex hormone that is produced by male gonads or testicles. Normal serum levels of this hormone are important for optimal sexual growth and development. For example, Testosterone triggers the production of sperms in the males and enhance sex drive and fertility. Women also produce testosterone but in very small amounts.
As we age, our testosterone levels start to diminish which in turn may poorly impact your health. Low testosterone levels result in low libido, poor erection and/or orgasm, lethargic feeling, decline in the energy levels, and inability to produce muscle mass. This condition is also known as hypogonadism which means your body is unable to produce enough testosterone.
In order to counteract low testosterone and its harmful impacts on your health, many people opt for testosterone (also referred to as hormone replacement therapy). Testosterone replacement therapy can improve serum testosterone levels and can be obtained by different techniques such as via injections, testosterone gels, suction cups etc.
Perks and determinant of testosterone therapy:
Many males are treating their low testosterone levels by exogenously consuming testosterone in prescribed doses. Pharmaceutical companies assure through different advertisement and marketing strategies that men who opt for testosterone therapy become more active, energetic and sexually active. However, just like any hormone replacement therapy, there are also some risks and long-term complications as well. For example, there has been some evidence that as the men ages, the cardiac risk increases in men who are taking (or has ever received hormone replacement therapy).
JAMA and JAMA Internal Medicine has published five papers in which the team of scientists investigated the role of testosterone therapy on various health aspects. Among these five studies, four were based on the effect of hormone therapy on bone density, anemia, cognitive function and plaque buildup. The 5th study investigated the link between cardiovascular health and testosterone therapy.
Research study regarding the impacts of testosterone therapy:
In this trial, a total 51,085 men were analyzed, of which 790 subjects had a prior history of low testosterone levels due to advanced age. These participants were then further divided into two groups. One group was prescribed gel form testosterone dose on a daily basis and the other group was given placebo for one year. The research analysts monitored both groups after every three months through various tests.
- In order to study bone density and strength, they used computed tomography.
- For cognition assessment, delayed paragraph recall test was used. Also, the research scientists evaluated the memory, executive function and spatial ability of the subjects.
- Coronary computes topographic angiography was used to analyze coronary artery plaque.
The analysis of cardiovascular health was observational in which research team used Cox proportional hazard model in order to analyze the relationship between testosterone and cardiovascular health. This includes assessment of risk to develop myocardial infarction, angina, stroke and transient ischemic attack
Outcomes of the tests:
The result showed that testosterone enhances bone density and bone strength. It also improves the hemoglobin level in anemic participants and it was also noticed that almost 40 percent increase in hemoglobin levels was seen in those participants who used testosterone as compared to those who used a placebo.
The testosterone did not improve cognitive function or memory.
Finally, the trial for cardiovascular health showed that there was a buildup of coronary artery plaque in the vessels of participants who used testosterone in contrast with the group that used a placebo. The participants who received testosterone treatment were also reported to have large buildups of non-calcified plaque.
Findings of the study:
According to Dr. Peter who is the Professor of Medicine in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Pennsylvania, findings of this study suggest that the people who have undergone testosterone therapy are at much higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues in the long term.
Though, he believes that the time period of this research was too short and not sufficient to make any final conclusion regarding the coronary plaque buildup and other cardiovascular risk links with testosterone therapy.
From the above study, we come to the conclusion that testosterone therapy may be beneficial for anemia and bone issues and for older men whose testosterone levels are low. However, people who have a preexisting heart condition should weigh pros and cons before opting for testosterone therapy.